Ignoring the Lessons of Donald Trump

Dennis Sanders

Dennis is the pastor of a small Protestant congregation outside St. Paul, MN and also a part-time communications consultant. A native of Michigan, you can check out his writings over on Medium and subscribe to his Substack newsletter on religion and politics called Polite Company.  Dennis lives in Minneapolis with his husband Daniel.

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79 Responses

  1. Murali says:

    But blend that with the shortcomings of trade deals, the opioid crisis, anxieties over immigration and job security

    One of the problems with the american working class is that they expected that a highschool education would get them the same lifestyle in an era in which everyone and their dog has a high school education or better as they would have gotten in an era in which only first world countries managed to universally educate everyone till high school.Report

    • atomickristin in reply to Murali says:

      I think stating unequivocally what the “problems” are with the American working class is ~maybe~ kind of what Dennis was driving at with the “class” stuff.

      Just a thought.


      • Maribou in reply to atomickristin says:

        @atomickristin While I agree with you, I think it’s also important to realize that Murali is not American and thus by definition really not whom Dennis was talking about in his criticisms.

        I’m sure I have a million mistaken theories about Singapore that I’m happy to spout at the least encouragement; Murali at least has the advantage of having lived here.


        • Will H. in reply to Maribou says:

          @maribou :
          I really don’t see how that could be even vaguely relevant.
          Murali stands on his own right, even were he from Atlantis or the Moon.
          Same with the counter-argument.

          Here, I would say Murali over-estimates the importance of education (more properly, the available education system).
          AK, OTOH, sees something sinister about class.
          There are also certain unstated assumptions built-in to both.

          To my way of thinking, very much in line with my training, class is both inevitable and desirable.
          Those to whom scarcity concerns dominate, those to whom quality concerns dominate, and those to whom presentation concerns dominate.
          You can see there is considerable overlap where “the working class” is to be carved out.Report

          • Maribou in reply to Will H. says:

            @will-h I was merely pointing out that Dennis S. said the problems were with Americans who had certain behaviors, and Kristin’s response to Murali sort of implied, “see, you’re who Dennis was talking about.”

            Given that Dennis was talking specifically about an American context, Murali wasn’t who Dennis was talking about.

            Context does matter in questions of who needs to change, or doesn’t.

            I wasn’t talking about the arguments themselves.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Murali says:

      Not everyone can get a college degree and if they could and did, a college degree would also be worth nothing.

      Do you really expect people to take the idea that they should/“deserve” to live precarious existences passively?Report

      • Will H. in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I think Murali is closer here than Saul.
        Around 1981-82, 50% of the American workforce had a high school diploma.
        At some point in the late 1990’s (around 1997), 79% of the American workforce had a bachelor’s degree.

        The real growth in worker productivity, however, reflects the movement of women into the workforce.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Will H. says:

          Will H.: At some point in the late 1990’s (around 1997), 79% of the American workforce had a bachelor’s degree.

          That definitely isn’t right. I’m on mobile and too lazy to do the math right now, but if you look here, you’ll see that even today, well under half of the US labor force has a bachelor’s degree or more.Report

  2. greginak says:

    Good to see you posting Dennis. I agree that it is important to figure out any underlying dynamics to Trump’s win. So while his win was certainly fluky since any win that includes losing the pop vote by 2.9 mil and with interference by a foreign power that had some effect even if it was marginal. I guess i’m contractually obligated to put these things any post about Trump.

    The D’s certainly has in rhetoric had not been offering anything to the WWC but did enact policy that tangibly helped them (ACA). Trump finagled that by lying that he would just make it better with no explanation and ignoring what the R’s would inevitably do which is cut it. Clinton was the wrong candidate to be able to parry bold lying. Add to that the D’s mediocre electoral strategies ( candidates, messaging, turn out) can easily explain Trump’s win.

    Our discourse is unsuited to talking about who wins and loses with different policies. Certainly people had done that with globalazation. Of course as has been repeatedly pointed out, upscale R’s voted for Trump just fine. Those people had done fine with our economic shifts. Working class areas had suffered. But of course how much have we put in to rebuild any poor/downwardly mobile area in the last few decades. Not really much .Partly this is because there isn’t always much that can be done in some cases and it requires spending a lot of money if it is going to be done.

    What to do? In some ways the D’s are doing the right thing by moving left. Give the people more of an alternative than D’s preaching a similar economic message to R’s with just more social safety net. I’m all for that safety net btw. But the centrist D message led them to be not that far from R’s. Oddly as the D’s moved to the center in the 90’s and had a not at all radical prez in Obama, partisanship skyrocketed with R’s moving right. Centrist D’s weakened their own base but never brought many R’s over.


    • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

      So while his win was certainly fluky since any win that includes losing the pop vote by 2.9 mil and with interference by a foreign power that had some effect even if it was marginal.

      IMHO, this is irrelevant because in a sane world where the political casteclass were not so busy naval gazing as to miss the points Dennis is making, Trump should have been about as attractive as Rick Santorium, at best.Report

    • CJColucci in reply to greginak says:

      This is the problem. What do we do? We can’t beat Trump or Trumpism by lying. They’re better and more shameless at it, their supporters don’t care, and they won’t be swayed by whatever lies we come up with. Having actual policies designed to help the WWC (not to mention the WC period), as opposed to Trumpist or standard-issue Republican policies that make their lives worse, doesn’t seem to do it. If the WWC resents the urban elites, that’s just the way it has always been; the “smart kids” who eventually moved on in life were rarely popular in middle school. And it never mattered what the “smart kids” said or thought about the eventual members of the WWC, who almost always started it.Report

  3. atomickristin says:

    I love this piece, I think it’s fantastic, I wish I would have written it myself. Really appreciate your message and thoughts. ?


    • Dark Matter in reply to atomickristin says:

      I love this piece, I think it’s fantastic, I wish I would have written it myself. Really appreciate your message and thoughts.

      Ditto, all that.

      But if the Dems want to win in 2020, they have to learn why they lost against such a poor candidate or it could happen again.

      Shifting from talking about *ism to talking about class would be hard… and I doubt it would matter.

      Trump was shockingly weak, but next time he’ll be VERY strong. 4+% growth means the Trump voters were right to put him in there. Trump will be the safer candidate, the known evil.

      (DM channels a Trump voter): I have a problem with rabbits & there have been issues with break ins, so I buy a dog. The dog is oversexed and mates with inappropriate objects. The dog fence fights with every other dog he runs into and has dominance issues. All of my neighbors have complained.

      The bunny population has fled. The number of break ins has been zero. I don’t like my neighbors (and if they don’t like dead bunnies being left all over the place whatever). The dog fixed the Gorsuch vs Garland thing (kids!).

      The dog isn’t pretty, or elegant, or subtle, but he’s doing everything I want him to do and the people who are unhappy didn’t want stuff to be done at all. I’m sure there are dogs who could give me everything I want without the drama but until he gets hit by a car I’m good with what I got.Report

      • Mark Kruger in reply to Dark Matter says:

        Love the dog analogy DM – I think it’s not far off. Dems still banking (to a degree) on him imploding or being impeached. And why not. He’s an easy target and does almost everything in the worst way possible. But the longer he goes without apocalyptic catastrophe the more “normal” he becomes.Report

  4. Aaron David says:

    I think you are right on track with this piece Dennis. One thing that often occurs to me is the rise of many similar things in the world right now; Brexit, Austria’s new premier, the Italian gov’t, Australia’s immigration policy, etc. Those things tell me that it isn’t solely DT, but is more of a worldwide phenomenon.

    But with the economy doing as well as it has been, there are fewer points to challenge him on. So, I think you are correct, in two years it will not be a good night for the D’s.Report

  5. pillsy says:

    I’m gonna dissent from the general consensus here, for a couple reasons, which is probably not surprising.

    Arguing that Trump won because he appealed to the working class, or at least the portion of the working class that is white, is not entirely wrong, but it’s… very limited.

    Because if he’d only gotten them to come out for him, he would have lost catastrophically, not won narrowly.

    #NeverTrumpers are a small minority of the GOP. They were before the election, and they’re, if anything, a smaller minority now. He retained, and retains, the support of the vast majority of the party that nominated him. Lots of people who make six figures and go to work in suits. And a small but crucial number of people who make eight figures and cut eye-wateringly huge checks to politicians.

    Including most of the ones who were and, hell, still are small government ideologues.

    I get the desire to focus on voters who seemingly switched allegiance [1], but the large majority of people who voted for Trump were Romney-Trump voters. And while I’m absolutely certain Mr Sanders isn’t doing this here in this piece, the impulse to frame this in terms of class all too often seems to lead people to project responsibility onto a group of people who are remote in terms of class and geography, allowing people to avoid the kind of reckoning he calls for here.

    It’s left me very suspicious of the approach, even when it’s undertaken in obvious good faith, and with equally obvious good intentions.

    [1] Though I kind of wonder why the assumption is that people’s votes in 2016, rather than 2008, were the ones most profoundly driven be economic anxieties. The economy was vastly worse when Obama was elected!Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to pillsy says:

      [1] Though I kind of wonder why the assumption is that people’s votes in 2016, rather than 2008, were the ones most profoundly driven be economic anxieties. The economy was vastly worse when Obama was elected!

      In 2008 other issues dominated. First Black President & the War. There was no doubt that the economy was suffering but the Great One was expected to fix things.

      And he did. The Obama recovery started a few months after he took office in 2009. By 2016 people had been told this was what victory looked like for 7 years.Report

      • pillsy in reply to Dark Matter says:

        I mean the economy was straight up shrinking, unemployment was hitting the double digits, and shit was generally on fire.

        McCain was drawing dead anyway [1], but he really bungled the issue.

        [1] And he was a poorer candidate than I expected. The GOP really would have been better off with Romney in ’08 even though he would have lost too, if not by quite as much.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to pillsy says:

          I mean the economy was straight up shrinking, unemployment was hitting the double digits, and shit was generally on fire.

          And the Dems (and the GOP) were willing to deal with it, thus the stim, the TARP, etc. So the world is on fire and the choice is between two firefighters.

          What didn’t exist was “this is your lot in life you deplorables, you live with it“.

          Or if you want better spin on that statement, “economic growth is simply impossible”.Report

          • pillsy in reply to Dark Matter says:

            That’s one take, but the other, which seems to be at least as plausible, is that the 2016 election was a regression to the mean (or reversion to the existing trend), and 2008 was the outlier.

            2012 Obama was the incumbent, so it’s a little different.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to pillsy says:

      Arguing that Trump won because he appealed to the working class, or at least the portion of the working class that is white, is not entirely wrong, but it’s… very limited.

      This. The Trump election has us taught several things, and here is the actual basic history of what happened:

      1) Internally, the Republican party hollowed itself out of…actual solutions to any problems Americans had. They somehow managed to get away with this for several decades, it arguably started in the 60, pushing an agenda that had nothing for anyone, because that is what their donors wanted.

      And I will admit the Democrats followed this trend also, at times. Both parties did this to some level, became bought and paid by for donors. But in areas where the political donors left them alone, the Democrats actually had policy, and the Republican mostly did not. (Yes, yes, the Repulicans had two social issues to scream about, but those were always rather fringe, and got even more over time.)

      This is somewhat faint praise for the Democrats, that they only did things that don’t upset their donors too much, but at least they appear to have independent goals they wanted to do instead of the Republicans basically seeming to get into office for the express purpose of cutting the taxes of rich people. (Note I said Democrats ‘appear’ to have those things. Whether they actually have such goals is not relevant here, the perception of such goals is.)

      2) Because the Republican party was not, uh, actually trying to do anything for anyone, which makes it hard to convince people to vote for them, the leadership of the right managed to ratchet up partisanship to inconceivable levels. With a basically gibberish hatred of everything the left did and turning them into little better than Satan. The Republican party, lacking anything to stand for or try to do except stuff that was very unpopular like cut government services, became the anti-Democrat party, because that was the only way to win elections.

      3) The Republican party, at some point, managed to delude itself that the vast majority of Republican voters were in favor of these donor-centric policies, when in fact the majority of those voters actually somewhat loathed them, and were only voting Republican because…the Democrats were actual literal Satan.

      4) It actually turns out the vast majority of voters just are party voters and don’t give a damn about how unfit a candidate is.

      And…then we got Trump. He got the nomination based on #1 and #3, and got elected based on a combination of #2 and #4.

      Trying to focus on ‘the Democrats only did things that don’t upset their donors too much’ is a pretty nonsensical lesson to learn from all that, because #2 and #4, things Democrats have no control over at all, were much bigger factors. It’s like watching a basketball game that ended 84-83 and blaming your team’s loss on a specific missed shot. That’s not how that works.

      If we want to talk about what the Democrats should have done, here it is:

      They should have denormalized the Republican party a _decade_ ago. At least by the end of the 90s.

      Stopped acting like they were serious actors in the political space, stopped working with them at all. For too long, they were allowed to demonize Democrats and then walk into Congress and work with Democrats. No. At the very start…the second they praised Limbaugh or refused to condemn a picture of Hillary with devil horns, just flatly rejected them as an actual political entity and clearly stated why to the media.

      That, right there, was the actual Democratic mistake: Refusing to accept, and deal with in any manner, the fact the other party was slipping into spittle-spraying lunacy.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

        Actually, there’s a fun question:

        Let’s say you can give advice to a political party in the past, but you _can’t_ mention (Or hint at, no clever cheating) any specific things or people or elections.

        Like, you can’t tell Hillary to focus on specific state or warn about Trump…but you can warn the Democrats about overconfidence and trying to run up the count in states they were going to win anyway. Or warn the Republicans about demagogues in a general sense.

        But go farther back than the last election. What advice would people give the parties, and when? Assume this advice is public (If you’re telling the entire party it is going to leak) and you are…vaguely trusted, so they might follow it if it seems reasonable, but might not if it doesn’t.Report

      • Will H. in reply to DavidTC says:

        the leadership of the right managed to ratchet up partisanship to inconceivable levels. With a basically gibberish hatred of everything the left did and turning them into little better than Satan.

        This is the Dem analogue to an NBA player from whom the ball has just been stolen flailing about in Oscar-worthy fashion trying to get to the free throw line.Report

  6. Kolohe says:

    There’s a lot to chew on here. For starters, I certainly agree that a good chunk of Trump’s success was tapping into a perceived and real unmet need in the current political discourse. Plus, figuring out how to serve people’s needs is pretty much a Kantian imperative of a small d democratic political system.

    I disagree, though, on a lot of the small details you use in this piece. Trump’s victory was very narrow, based entirely switching and/or turning out a relatively small number of voters overall between 2012 and 2016 in states that happened to be close enough to matter. E.g. 500k in Florida, 300k in Pennsylvania, 200k in Michigan. Nationally of course, Trump still lost by almost 3 million people.

    I think there’s a nuance in the class argument. It is certainly the case that Trump overperformed among white people with only high school education compared with recent republicans, and similarly underperformed among those with college degrees; the former being a larger swing than the latter, and a decisive one. But (& this is from memory, I can’t find these numbers offhand, and so I could be wrong), if you still control for income, lower income whites still voted for Clinton more than Trump.

    The silly stuff people argue about online indicating nobody’s learned anything is not quite borne out by the elections we’ve had since Trump’s elected. I can’t think of any Republican that’s had an easy straightforward victory, meeting or exceeding the historical trend for that race. On the contrary, every one has been a pitched battle, and the Democrats have scored some major upsets.

    Your bit about Reagan I agree with, but it stirs up an interesting thought. Perhaps Trump win the Republican nomination because he was the only one that *was* able to tap into a key component of the Reagan coalition – those Reagan Democrats. Who are now, 35 years later, at the tail end of a political re-alignment they were in the middle of back in the day, just Republicans.Report

  7. Pinky says:

    Looking away from Trump is the easiest thing in the world. He’s boring. Or, rather, he’s attention-grabbing in the same way that a six-year-old is, but that’s incredibly boring after five minutes.

    I’m still very interested in politics and policy, but I’ve found over the last 10 years of intellectually-stunted child presidents that it’s just not worth paying attention to people with nothing to say.

    The last president I could listen to was Bush Senior. He was a poor public speaker, but I believed he was generally telling the truth, and he was intellectually alive in a time of great change. Clinton bothered me. A beautiful speaker, but if you were familiar at all with policy, you knew that most of what he said was false. W couldn’t speak. He was a good man, but boy he couldn’t speak.. Obama, well, I’m the only person on earth who thinks of this current administration as Obama’s third term. Lies, pettiness, incompetence, grandstanding.

    There’s nothing easier than looking away from a car wreck. Traffic may slow down around it, as other people stare, but that doesn’t mean you have to.Report

  8. Chip Daniels says:

    Why do white workers hear Trump’s economic message, but the black guy working alongside him doesn’t?

    The “economic anxiety” rationale has become a punchline, for a reason.

    If a white worker voted for Trump as someone to advance his economic interest, one would expect that worker to have become disenchanted, even outraged, at the persistent war on workers that Trump has waged since taking office.

    Yet, they don’t. Those who supported him in November 2016, still do.

    So Trump is obviously delivering what they wanted. And just as obviously, what they wanted was not a pro-worker program or anything having to do with economics.

    On the other side of the aisle, it takes a willful blindness to not see the economic vision from the Democrats- ranging from protecting Obamacare, to Medicare for all, to tuition free college, to higher minimum wage.Report

    • J_A in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I tend to (partially) agree with @chip-daniels here

      So Trump is obviously delivering what they wanted. And just as obviously, what they wanted was not a pro-worker program or anything having to do with economics.

      I don’t think the OP is correct when it says

      But Trump is President for a reason. (No, the answer is not Russia.) He is the Commander-in-Chief because both political parties had nothing to offer to an electorate that was upset and looking for someone, anyone to listen to them.

      Yes, he’s a crook and a liar and a jerk. But he was able to say the right words to get people to vote for him. The problems that elected Donald Trump are still problems. As long as his opponents (and I include myself) don’t attend to those problems with solutions, Trump will continue to be a problem.

      The famous “the mines will close” speach is full of policies aimed at solving the problems of the miners. The Democratic platform is full of policies on how to address in the real world the problems of Flint or West Virginia. Totally, the Dems indeed proposed a way to help a dislocated working class find new jobs and also provide them with governmental assistance in the interim.

      It’s just that those voters did not want those solutions. What they want is to return to a world it no longer exists. The Democrats can’t do that. Trump can’t do that. Is just that he had no problem in lying and saying he will Make America Great Again, that is, Make My Life What It Used To Be Again(*).

      So, Trump was able to say the right words to get people to vote for him.. What he can’t, and has no intention of trying to, is attend to those problems with solutions. Quite the contrary, his actual policies are making the problems worse, while he continues to say the right words to get people to vote for him.

      Yes, Hillary was an inept campaigner. She had sixteen bullet points for each issue. But she was mostly right on every issue. It’s just that the Trump voters did not want solutions. They just wanted their problems to go away. That’s not happening. The challenge is how to explain this, and win the election.

      (*) There’s a class component to Make My Life What It Used To Be Again : the white working class was not, in yore times, the bottom of the totem. There were plenty of people below. It just happened they weren’t white, or (Protestant) Christian. Some were not even male.Report

  9. I really like this piece, Dennis. Thanks for writing it.


  10. Rufus F. says:

    I, too, enjoyed this piece quite a bit. So, let me quote something that may seem irrelevant:

    “The modern world of economic competition and shifting social relations places the individual in a situation where change and uncertainty are the keynotes. Fixed or permanent adjustments become impossible. The world moves and the individual must continually readjust himself. The possibility that he will not do this with complete success is greater than ever before. Social maladjustment, whether slight or great, then becomes characteristic of modern man.”

    The writer, Everett Stonequist, was an American sociologist and one of the pioneers in studying “marginality”, be it cultural, ethnic, or “occupational”. The book, “The Marginal Man”, is from 1937.

    When people talk about “late capitalism” I think they’re suggesting it’s on its way out, and I think “Okay, well, capitalism sure looked pretty ‘late’ in the 1920s and 1930s too!” But, of course, we saw all of these same political struggles back then. When people feel marginalized by large systems that are beyond their control, they seek some measure of control over their own lives. They look for someone to vote for who can hear them and “feel your pain” AND voice their resentments. The Democrats seem to be much better than the Republicans at addressing the pain caused by systemic racism and sexism- and good on them! In terms of class, I don’t know- some of them are better than others.

    But, look, the post-war society was founded on a social contract that was broken by the late 70s and no party has been very good at taking the full measure of what that means for social cohesion or political stability, or even for people’s everyday lives. I suspect, though, that most of us find “Of course you’re pissed off! You have every right to be!” a far less patronizing message than “I feel your pain”.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Rufus F. says:

      It’s interesting that you draw the comparison, because AIUI “I feel your pain!” was pretty successful political messaging, and it’s not like the guy who ran with it didn’t win his election.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to pillsy says:

        Well, right- back then, the sexual predator who was running on the phony populist platform appealing to the working class only to turn around and pass measures that decimated the gains of the working class was a Democrat. So, it was a slightly different world.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Group memberships tends to become more important in times of uncertainty or instability, I posit.
      I see this as the driving factor in the plethora of hyphenated Americans.
      All it is saying is that the present set-up just isn’t working for a lot of people.
      For as long as they remain separate, it will stay that way. Maybe longer.Report

  11. Jaybird says:

    I enjoyed this piece a lot.

    I wonder if the Democrats will have a candidate that people will be able to vote *FOR* next election, or if they’re just going to throw another Kerry at Trump.

    As such, I still find myself wondering which, between Trump and Clinton, was the accelerationist candidate.Report

  12. Jay L Gischer says:

    I remember living in Virginia and taking a trip to WV to go river rafting with some highly educated colleagues. There were comments along the line Dennis makes, whereas when I looked at the country and people there, it felt more like being at home.

    And yeah, this is definitely a motivator for a lot of voters. They feel like second-class citizens in the country their people built. That’s not good. I can’t stand Breitbart.com, but the reference to “deplorables” was a terrible rhetorical mistake.

    We’ve found it difficult to reconcile the struggle for racial/gender equality and the struggle for economic/class equality. They are both problems. How do we bridge these?

    I think that there were probably a lot of third-party sock puppets during the spring of 2016 there to just stir things up between Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters. I recall there being no end of people whom I’d never heard from before jumping into discussion threads and making outrageous claims.

    Meanwhile, I think we Democrats need a clearer message, that is uncluttered with qualifications, while making it clear that the qualifications are likely to apply. For instance “Medicare for All” is one. The answer to “how do you pay for it?” is “We’ve got a half-dozen ideas, and we’ll probably come up with more as we negotiate. Right now we’re just going to talk about what our goals are and what we’re going to fight for.” I think that’s fine as a political message.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Jay L Gischer says:

      They feel like second-class citizens in the country their people built.

      So you were with a group of black folks?Report

      • Doctor Jay in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Make no mistake. I do not think there’s any such thing as an America without black people.

        AND, there’s no such thing as an America without Appalachia, either. Both of these things are true. Why do we have so much trouble holding both of them in our heads?

        Yeah, the history of black Americans is worse. This isn’t a moral equivalence. It’s a question of why people insist I have to choose whom I love. Why can’t I love them both? Do we really think America doesn’t have the resources to help both groups? Is this a zero-sum game? Many think so, but not me.

        I mean, for so many people there is sympathy for one group and approbation for the other. It makes me feel like I have no constituency at all.Report

        • Maribou in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          @doctor-jay I care about both groups, absolutely. My mother-in-law, whom I adore, is from Harlan County.

          But if you talk about the history of WV, and you’re talking about white people exclusively (which I will note Chip had NO proof whatsoever you were doing), and you’re talking about who built the country…. it’s kind of like slavery didn’t happen. Like there wasn’t one group of people whose backs the other group of people used to get ahead.

          Personally I think putting Appalachian miners, etc., in the category of “people whose [nonexistent] financial get-ahead depended on slavery” is a category error… but it’s pretty complicated and messy.

          FWIW, one of the things that frustrates me is that sometimes I feel like no one who is anti-“deplorable” even realizes that “majority-white” and “exclusively white” are not the same thing. There are African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic-Americans (heyo, Tyson Foods!), etc., in those communities as well, just as frustrated and as desperate.

          If I could make everyone watch one movie this week, it’d be Remote Area Medical – a documentary that’s streaming on Netflix still, I’m pretty sure – about a non-profit that goes into Appalachia and does popup clinics for everyone there (non-shockingly, this is not “just white people”) who is suffering horrendous things because they can’t find the care they need. The dental stuff is particularly heart-rending. (Since the time the documentary was made, they’ve also started doing these popups in LA and Chicago.)

          For those that don’t want to watch a whole documentary, there’s also https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/nov/23/enormous-pop-up-clinic-trying-bridge-americas-health-divide, from 2016.Report

          • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

            I lied, it’s not on Netflix anymore, it’s on Amazon now (looks like Starz picked it up). But I’d recommend it anyway, worth the 4-6 bucks you’ll pay or the effort of subscribing to a free trial of one of the 3 channels that have it.Report

          • pillsy in reply to Maribou says:

            This reasoning cuts the other way, too, of course.

            Polling has something like 60% of whites without college degrees (which I tend to think of as an OK-ish proxy for “working class”) supporting Trump and shy of 40% disapproving.

            Now, that’s a big margin in his favor, but it still means 2 in 5 people in that group don’t approve of him.

            And sure, Trump cleaned up in West Virginia (489 371 votes, or 68%!) but he actually got more votes (494 548) in New York City.Report

          • Jay L Gischer in reply to Maribou says:

            My people come from the upper plains and the Pacific NW. It’s just that when I was in Appalachia, it seemed pretty familiar.

            In my home county, there are lots of Native Americans, and I went to school with lots of them. There is at least one black man in my family tree, my dad showed me the the chart once where he fit in. It was in Missouri. Mostly we are Germans, but a long way back.

            Slavery didn’t have much to do with the Pacific NW, it might seem. And yet, in Bellingham there is a landmark known as the Pickett house. George Pickett, of Pickett’s Charge, lived there when he was stationed by the Army to the NW.


            It’s all connected.

            I do not think it makes sense for white people like me to wallow in shame and guilt for things long past. I think that shame and guilt prevents us from doing exactly the things that might improve things. I think we’re observing that today. I think it is ultimately healthier to stare this stuff down. To look it in the eye, to acknowledge all the things that were done to give us a better life on the backs of racially slanted policies and decisions, and walk forward without the shame.

            James Baldwin said, “when the white man learns to love himself, there will be no race problem.” That is my program. We aren’t going to learn to love ourselves while running away from this, and pretending it didn’t happen.Report

            • Maribou in reply to Jay L Gischer says:

              @doctor-jay Well, I agree with you, at least in part, which is why I think it’s important to qualify phrases like “who built this country” with more complexity and nuance. Speaking with more complexity and nuance, and effort to think about everyone involved, about the racialized history of the US – to not broadcast the same signals as people with very different, morally repugnant views – is very different from wallowing in shame or guilt.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          Is this a zero-sum game?

          If the modifier to “working class” is “white” then yes absolutely it is a zero sum game.

          MAGA, AKA revanchism, meaning “return to some status quo ante”, is a zero sum game. It means rolling back decades of changes which have improved the lives of tens of millions of us.Report

          • Maribou in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            @chip-daniels Equating WWC and MAGA is what Trump wants us to do… and most of the rest of the 1 percenters, frankly. Pitting different sections of the working class and middle class against each other has been a useful tactic since medieval times.

            Just because a majority of *them*, in their desperation, have fallen for this equation and started to tolerate all kinds of shit they wouldn’t have before, is not reason for *us* to accept the equivalence on behalf of the entire group.

            Nor is endorsing the equivalence going to help change that vector.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Maribou says:

              I’m not suggesting it is.
              Hilary won the working class overall, in fact.

              What I’m referring to is anyone whose first descriptor of themself is “white”.

              Because for the Trumpists, whiteness is the first and most important part of their identity, primary above class, religion, regional culture or any other part of their makeup.

              Hilary never promised to put coal miners out of work. She promised to help them, in fact.

              But elite scorn was what the Trump fans heard, the excuse they needed to prioritize white ethnic resentment over their economic well being. And even now when Trump is literally taking money out of their pockets, they cling to him because of that priority.

              Over on the other thread we are seeing this play out.
              The Democrats are accused of having this crazy rabid leftwing insurgence, a populist base of working class voters with radical ideas like a higher minimum wage, free college, and Medicare for all.

              And how do these out of work Trump voters feel about these proposals, which would have an immediate benefit to them?Report

              • Maribou in reply to Chip Daniels says:


                You’re suggesting it is when you jump straight from Appalachian woes to race woes, actually. @doctor-jay never even said what his friends’ ethnic identities were, or how primarily they valued them, you guessed. You’re the one putting primarily white-identified people into this thread (in your follow up comment), and then blaming the discourse.

                I barely know any Appalachians personally (not none, but a lot fewer than some folks of other regional origins), and I still know Appalachians who are black, Native American, and most commonly of all, mixed-race. And they weren’t happy at all about Hilary Clinton. I mean, most of them voted for her, but they didn’t feel like she gave a crap about them. They just feared Trump more.

                Blaming Appalachian people for the failures of Michigan, Wisconsin, etc., strikes me as a coastal error, anyway. I’m not saying the folks who went MAGA-or-bust in Appalachia *aren’t* gravely and in many cases shamefully mistaken. But those folks have had those errors for a long time. I’d be tons more worried about Wisconsin and Iowa voters, than shaming Appalachians, were I a Democratic strategist.Report

              • Jay L Gischer in reply to Maribou says:

                I appreciate your thoughts, and they are pretty much the same as mine.

                Yes, if someone defines themselves by their whiteness, that’s a problem. Shaming them isn’t going to change their mind, though, it’s just going to reinforce the divide. There’s a bunch of people who don’t do that, though, and they can be won over.

                They wanted to “bring back coal” or “bring back jobs”. Those things are lies. They can’t be done. We need a program that moves things forward, not looks backward. We can sell such a program. Something like 25% of the country is unreachable, so don’t pay attention to them. Don’t let them define our agenda, either.

                There’s another 75% that is reachable. Focus on that.Report

              • North in reply to Jay L Gischer says:

                I would lime to note that you just literally paraphrased Hillary Clintons infamous “deplorables” speech almost perfectly.


        • I’ve been wondering about regional perspectives on some of this. There are no states in the Census Bureau’s 13-state West where blacks are the largest minority group and several where they are not the second largest. I would bet that if I polled my local (Colorado) friends, “Appalachia” is mostly just a place they read about. The Great Plains, OTOH, with poverty, shrinking population, and vanishing jobs problems that have been going on longer than Appalachia’s, they know.


    • Dark Matter in reply to Jay L Gischer says:

      Meanwhile, I think we Democrats need a clearer message, that is uncluttered with qualifications, while making it clear that the qualifications are likely to apply. For instance “Medicare for All” is one. The answer to “how do you pay for it?” is “We’ve got a half-dozen ideas, and we’ll probably come up with more as we negotiate. Right now we’re just going to talk about what our goals are and what we’re going to fight for.” I think that’s fine as a political message.

      Spin won’t change the $33 Trillion dollar bill.

      Basically we’re talking about a $3 Trillion a year increase in gov spending… which brings us to Dems promising free medical care and the flinching away from how much it’d cost.

      I think it’s possible to get elected on that, but it’s beyond white elephant territory, you’re seriously setting yourself up for failure.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Dark Matter says:

        Are you frightened by big numbers in general or just when talking about government spending? Because here’s some numbers off the top of my head: Last year I paid ~$12k in premiums to my company healthcare plan. My company contributed another $12k. Then there’s the deductibles, copays, out-of-network stuff, and crap they just decide not to cover. That’s around $30k for two adults and a child. Roughly extrapolate that to the total U.S. population and we’re north of $3T. We’re already spending that (at least I am) so where’s the OMG?

        I mean… I fully realize that shifting that spending from the private sector to the public sets your teeth on edge, but otherwise? If MFA results in greater overall spending, a doubtful proposition but let’s go with that for argument’s sake, that increase is mostly tied to people who currently need healthcare but aren’t receiving it, which bothers me not at all. It’s actually a big part of the whole point.

        As far as who pays, my taxes would have to increase by a factor of ten just to have my situation break even. As it stands this shit is killing me financially. If the 20%ers pay more I’m fine with that; just looking out for number one, ya know? Perfectly symmetrical with what I assume your reason is for opposing it.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Road Scholar says:

          Are you frightened by big numbers in general…

          A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is just a statistic. EVERYONE should be deeply concerned about economic decisions which involve Trillions of dollars of fresh spending, much less fresh yearly spending.

          That’s an absurdly large undertaking with lots of room for economic disruption, mismanagement, and unforeseen consequences. Worse you’re assuming that estimate is just a straight absorption as though the gov isn’t involved in HC at all right now. We already spend more than $1.2 Trillion a year on Medicare/Medicaid.

          My assumption is an extra 3.3 Trillion is an extra 3.3 Trillion. That’s on top of the $1.2 Trillion we already pay, and it’s seriously unclear how much of the $2.1 Trillion from the rest of the economy we actually get back. Unhappy path is “none”. More realistically we get “some but hardly all” because our politicians won’t have the spine to end millions of well paying jobs so we get another layer of bureaucracy bolted onto our current system.

          That’s around $30k for two adults and a child. Roughly extrapolate that to the total U.S. population and we’re north of $3T. We’re already spending that (at least I am) so where’s the OMG?

          Picture paying twice that with no benefit to yourself. I think that’s worth an OMG. Or, somewhat more realistically, picture paying $50k in taxes (assumes 50% savings off that $2.1T) for worse service than what we have now.

          If MFA results in greater overall spending, a doubtful proposition but let’s go with that for argument’s sake…

          We would be handing out lots of free benefits, removing gatekeepers, dramatically increasing demand, we SHOULD expect the new system to cost a LOT more. The way these programs die at a state level is spending explodes until the budget breaks.

          …that increase is mostly tied to people who currently need healthcare but aren’t receiving it, which bothers me not at all. It’s actually a big part of the whole point.

          So you’re perfectly good with paying $30k for coverage and another $15k-30k in taxes for other people? “Flinch away from the costs” was not an exaggeration.

          More than likely it’s impossible to pay these kind of numbers so we “shave” corners somewhere… which means what? Large scale wait lists and waiting? Serious death panels? If we’re serious about these kinds of plans we need to get real comfortable arguing that death panels are a good, needed thing… but that implies our brave politicians are willing to stand up to seniors and let them die.

          The good news is I’ve seen reports claiming the Trump plan for reducing costs is to force HCP to publish prices on their websites (this would work). The bad news is this would require an act of Congress and we’ll probably have an election before it comes up.Report

          • The Question in reply to Dark Matter says:

            You know the Koch backed mercatus Center published a study on medicare-for-all which used your big scary 32 trillion-dollar line what is not in the headlines is the fact that says that’s like 2 to 3 trillion less than we’re going to be spending any way. And we actually cover everybody with M4A.
            so is your complaint just that it’s paid to taxes?Report

            • When there was a single-payer ballot initiative in Colorado, my perception was the argument against that got traction wasn’t that it would be inefficient, or cost the citizens more overall — it was that it would double the size of the state/local government in terms of dollars collected and spent. That seems to be the argument that gets the most traction at all levels — that another 10% of GDP would be routed through the government.


          • The Question in reply to Dark Matter says:

            also I think you’re dropping a thread here he’s not going to be paying his 30k he’s just going to be paying the taxes that’s the point for having a system that covers everybody with no front end pricing. prevention is cheaper than cure and people put off prevention cuz they can’t see doctors cuz it cost money.Report

            • Dark Matter in reply to The Question says:

              …prevention is cheaper than cure…

              This is a slogan, but when we try to make policy on it we find it’s not true.

              Most “preventions” don’t actually prevent anything so you need LOTS of preventions to forgo even one cure. The body tends to heal itself even without treatment.

              Obviously there are exceptions (ex: vaccinations) where it’s massively to society’s benefit, i.e. “cheaper” to prevent/treat everyone (as in “everyone”).Report

      • Doctor Jay in reply to Dark Matter says:

        We’re already paying tons of money for health care, through insurance and through bills. What we propose is changing the paths through which that money changes hands.

        As it turns out, single-payer would probably save us money overall.


        • Brandon Berg in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          Oh, man. Even by the *Nation*’s standards, that is some truly sewer-grade journalism. It’s clearly stated in the abstract (bolding mine) that the $32.6 trillion is a conservative lower-bound estimate, and that costs will likely be higher. I’m not saying that John Nichols is definitely a liar, but only because I think there’s a good chance that he’s simply incompetent and didn’t even bother to read the abstract.

          The leading current bill to establish single-payer health insurance, the Medicare for All Act (M4A), would, under conservative estimates, increase federal budget commitments by approximately $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years of full implementation (2022–2031), assuming enactment in 2018. This projected increase in federal healthcare commitments would equal approximately 10.7 percent of GDP in 2022, rising to nearly 12.7 percent of GDP in 2031 and further thereafter. Doubling all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan. It is likely that the actual cost of M4A would be substantially greater than these estimates, which assume significant administrative and drug cost savings under the plan, and also assume that healthcare providers operating under M4A will be reimbursed at rates more than 40 percent lower than those currently paid by private health insurance.

          This also doesn’t take into account the increased deadweight loss from dramatically higher tax rates.Report

  13. Will H. says:

    An excellent piece, Dennis, and much I could agree with here.

    I was thinking today of an alternative narrative, one based on the notion that the institutional forces weighing on Congress are felt at present among the electorate.
    Congress was specifically designed to maintain the status quo, or, when not, to over-react erratically.
    The Trump presidency is a result of those forces acting on the electorate as well. In a rejection of the status quo, an erratic over-reaction ensued.
    More to come, more likely than not.

    However, the coming dominance of Latin organized crime will most probably rise above all other issues in urgency.
    The scope of the problem will dwarf the immigrant communities of Jews, Italians, and Irish of the early XX c.
    These are Mexicans, and they know how to fall in line. They will inevitably link together.
    Sure, they will each fight for their place. But when that fighting is done, they will sit down to dinner, each knowing his place.
    Although their manner is typically more friendly and laid-back than what may be expected, they have a fierce loyalty that runs deep. My assessment: Easier to infiltrate, more difficult to penetrate in a meaningful manner.

    And the real culprits here are the law enforcement unions and their “victims’ groups” political front organizations, the bulk of prosecutors (who generally believe they work for the law enforcement unions), the ethics oversight boards which permit such persons to continue to practice law, the tolerance of federal law enforcement of organized crime in state and local government (generally, what would clearly be racketeering in the context of a union of coal miners or carpenters is somehow acceptable in law enforcement personnel), and a judiciary who view it as their primary task to place a heavy thumb on the scales of justice in favor of the state.
    Of course, the media as well, who tend to keep us focused on petty crimes of aberrant youth while the Ken Lays of the world go without even a hint of a bad word until they can no longer restrain it. All the time we were worried about criminals, when the outlaws were carrying the badges.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Will H. says:

      Your paragraph on “Latin organized crime” seems out of place among the rest of your comment / not especially relevant to the question of US elections.

      I realize you are not talking about all Mexicans or anything like it, but if there’s a good link up there, I would need a lot more lines drawn for me to understand it.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Maribou says:

        The illusion of transparency.

        The policies directed toward Latinos these days are form-fit to generate organized crime; not incidentally, but at the behest of law enforcement unions and their political front organizations.
        We know that from the study of organized crime in the immigrant communities of the Italians, Irish, and Jews in the early Twentieth Century. We are pursuing those same policies now, though not unknowingly, as was done before. This time, it is purposefully to generate greater career opportunities for law enforcement personnel, and it is fairly effective at it.

        By “Mexicans,” I mean Mexican nationals, as opposed to Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Nicaraguans, or any other group.

        I noted this as a coming dominance far beyond what we have seen.
        It is the scope of the problem, that targeting Latinos in the early 21st c. comprises a far greater number of people than the Italian, Irish, and Jewish populations of the early 20th c. in terms of ratio of total population (and likely of total assets as well).
        Our political system will likely soon be split between two shadow governments.

        I really don’t see much hope.Report

        • Maribou in reply to Will H. says:

          I see.

          Well, there’s a lot there I think you’re mistaken about, but there are also facts I know too, such that I can see where you’re drawing your conclusions from. At least now it all hangs together for me and doesn’t seem so completely random and dropped in to the conversation.

          Thank you for explaining. I really appreciate it.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Will H. says:

          This is one of those crumbs from Q, isn’t it?Report

          • Will H. in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            I’m not hip.

            Could you say that in a foreign language?Report

            • Mark Van Heusden in reply to Will H. says:

              Will H.: I’m not hip.

              Could you say that in a foreign language?

              Ich bin nicht hip.
              Ik ben niet hip.

              In German and Dutch.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Mark Van Heusden says:


                However, I was hoping for something a little more helpful.
                “Helpful,” in this context, entails aiding in decoding the message of the sender.
                Noise is still noise in the parameters of the model.Report

            • pillsy in reply to Will H. says:

              Q-Anon is a deeply weird conspiracy theory that is espoused by a certain group of particularly unhinged Trump supporters and alt-right adjacent types.

              It is pretty confusing, as most such conspiracy theories are, but… while I share @maribou ‘s doubt about your theory, it’s vastly more cogent than anything that comes out of Q-Anon, and involves a fundamental skepticism of law enforcement that is almost the antithesis of Q-Anon, which is deeply authoritarian and revolves around a secret law enforcement operation to bust secret pedophile rings at the highest level of society.

              So I don’t think it’s a fair comparison at all.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                Wow, I would not have thought of Q-Anon at all. I went straight to Q-Continuum, from ST:NG.Report

              • pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Every time I see someone mention Q-Anon on Twitter I have that fleeting second of hope that they’re just going to complain about some shitty Voyager episode I’ve forgotten about.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Even though pillsy is right, it saddens me that I didn’t go where you went first.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

                I confess, my awareness of Q-Anon is so limited that I’d be surprised if it was the first Q I thought of.

                Although it strike me that Q’s admonishment to Worf would apply to Q-Anon as well.Report

              • Will H. in reply to pillsy says:

                Thank you, @pillsy , for that explanation.

                Now that I understand it, I am offended.
                That was *WAY* out-of-line.

                Not a “conspiracy theory” at all.
                Cross-disciplinary study.

                As a political science minor at University of Illinois – Springfield, I was permitted to take 400-level courses, in addition to the mandatory 200-level course everyone takes. I was there when they hired the new professor to supplement their public sector labor relations program, and I took one of her classes. There, I learned that roughly 50% of all “victims’ rights” groups are political fronts for law enforcement unions. As the takeover of an existing organization is preferable (for a number of reasons) to the founding of a new organization to act as a political front group, the criteria for selecting a group to take over was studied in some detail. We covered the nuts & bolts of it.

                I also took criminal justice classes while in the paralegal program. I had a police detective as an instructor for one class, and a sitting police commissioner for three other classes.
                Unequivocally, to generate greater career opportunities for law enforcement personnel is the primary focus of today’s law enforcement. That is the answer on the test. I mean that quite literally.

                So, there are other sources, but those are the main ones.

                Now, I have lived through the indignity of the ungrounded assertion that it is simply not feasible that Pipefitters Local 597 Chicago might place any journeyman, a member-in-good-standing, whomever at the single largest facility within their territorial jurisdiction; specifically, the 1400-acre BP Whiting refinery, BP’s largest refinery in North America.
                Actually, that facility is administered by Local 597’s Merrillville satellite office. The business agent I worked with there was Dennis, a short, middle-aged Italian man, who resembled a taller version of Louie from Taxi, but much more friendly, in a gruff sort of way.
                Granted, I had been taking home a hair over $3000 a week for several months prior to this assertion ever being made.
                Then, hot on its heels came the assertion that the SNT VT-II is not a valid inspection certification (really, it’s the gold standard in the industry), and that the American Welding Society’s weld inspection certification (the CWI) is not a valid credential.
                This assertion was being made by persons off-site, btw.
                Now, I did test in Indianapolis. Maybe that has something to do with it.
                And because I deliberately chose to avoid giving information which might lead to physical violence enacted against other persons, this might cast some doubt on whether I handed my inspection records from BP over to Jill Stein at the Sangamon Auditorium on March 3, 2016, shortly after 7:30 pm.

                I find that, typically, when someone asks me to disregard my own, personal experience, it is to achieve some benefit to that person rather than to myself.
                Not that I would consent to that sort of thing.
                Just that I would think less of people who ask.

                But now, I feel obligated to state a dearth of authority in support of any statement.
                It’s part of that Leftist love of the working man.Report

              • Mark Kruger in reply to Will H. says:

                It’s not that I doubt you but this is literally the only sentence in the above post that I understood – and even this statement makes me scratch my head a little.

                But now, I feel obligated to state a dearth of authority in support of any statement.
                It’s part of that Leftist love of the working man.


              • Will H. in reply to Mark Kruger says:

                @mark-kruger :
                Three things come immediately to mind:


                All things which participate in anything which is common to them all move towards that which is of the same kind as themselves. Everything which is earthy turns towards the earth, everything which is liquid flows together, and everything which is of an aerial kind does the same, so that they require something to keep them asunder, and the application of force. . . . Accordingly then everything which participates in the common intelligent nature moves in like manner towards that which is of the same kind with itself, or moves even more. . . .
                Marcus Aurelius
                , IX, 9

                I feel fairly confident you will be unable to grasp what Marcus is referring to, as I have now cited him.
                I can see from my life events what my inclinations and trajectory are. I am pleased with this.
                Whatever your own inclinations and trajectory are, they lead away from whatever it is that would bring me into these same life events– otherwise the inherent sameness would be apparent, and you would not struggle so with comprehension.

                2): I cite public information from academic sources: one 400-level political science class, and some criminal justice classes.
                It is not my role to educate you.
                However, you may educate yourself by diligent search for knowledge.
                Suggestion: Try a 400-level polisci course at a local university.

                3): More and more I see that those politically inclined are largely void of reason, instead concocting after-the-fact justifications for their actions and beliefs.
                I value consistency of thought and action far more than political affiliation.
                Here, you claim to have difficulty understanding such phrasing as:
                Not a “conspiracy theory” at all.
                Cross-disciplinary study.

                I asked a co-worker (I currently work for the state), a man who never graduated high school, and was recently released form prison after 18 years, whether he could make heads or tails of that snippet. I was told he could “get what [I] was saying.”
                Arguably, your own education may well show greater application were you to instead spend 18 years in prison rather than pursue the educational path you have. There is strong evidence to show your reading comprehension would be greatly enhanced by this.

                4): This is the way I grade my own actions, and I am much more harsh toward myself than others. But let’s take a look.
                Seven character attributes: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Integrity, Honor, Personal Courage.
                Which ones do this comment of yours address?
                That comment, like all other things you do, is a manifestation of your own character and competence.

                (redacted – maribou – explanation below)Report

              • Maribou in reply to Will H. says:

                @will-h the last few lines of your comment above were not, IMO, reflective of *your* character and competence. They also go against our policy about no direct attacks, and they were a serious overreaction to a slightly hyperbolic, perhaps gently teasing, confession of incomprehension from the author of the post you were commenting on. Hence the redaction.

                I appreciate that you need to convey your truths, and I’m holding space for you to do that, but only when you can do it without directly impugning someone else.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Maribou says:

                As you wish.Report